Revision sometimes can feel like a huge mountain to climb as you look at the piles of notes you’ve made throughout the year (hopefully!) and wonder where on earth to begin. Here are a few of my tips I have acquired from years of revising for GCSE and A level that hopefully may help you take the first steps to tackling that mountain.
- Download a free app to help you focus and not get distracted from the notifications pinging up or your own temptation to have a “little” scroll on your instagram feed! – One of my favourites which I recently discovered from a friend is Flora, an app which you can set the time you want to spend revising and will block any notifications from coming on your phone. You are also ‘growing’ a tree whilst you focus, if you break your target focus time the tree will die – you can even put money on it as extra motivation for you not to break focus! It’s even great for the environment because the money you loose goes to planting real trees around the world. This app is also great because you are creating a competition with yourself, the more you focus the more trees you will ‘grow’ and the further you can ‘travel’ around the world. Perhaps not the best of descriptions but download the app for free and you can discover for yourself what I mean.
2. Start with the subject/topic you are WORST at. Tackle the most difficult topics first by making summaries, drawing diagrams if it is a difficult concept or creating mind maps that you can plaster all over your wall. If you aren’t sure which topics to begin with do a whole bunch of practice questions then mark it yourself to see where there are areas you aren’t picking up the marks and make a list with a tally beside it – often you may see a pattern begin to form, the one with the highest tally is the topic to start with!
3. Snacks. You need fuel when revising so choose a snack of choice (like peanuts, fruit or these incredible Biscuiteers biscuits which my Mum Kindly gave me to wish me good luck (a great gift if you know someone going through exams in the near future)). Obviously, healthier snacks are better for your brain but lets be honest, when slaving away over your revision notes fruit and veg isn’t often the snack thats going to keep us going is it? Sometimes id even use food as a work and reward system – so I’d set maybe 40 minutes on my timer (refer to my first tip), then once I had completed it reward myself with a slice of cake or a biscuit – I didn’t do this all the time but sometimes when you really need a motivational boost this would really help. Similarly id do this with other things I love like revise for 5 hours then id allow myself to watch a film or go to the cinema. Try out whatever works for you and motivates you to keep going!
4. Keep your big WHY in your mind at all times.
Maybe create a vision board for you to look at to remind you exactly WHY you are putting yourself through this. Your ‘BIG WHY’ can be anything from a dream career, or to get into your dream university or simply to give you more options in your life. Collect images of everything you love or want from your future and stick them in a notebook or on a big piece of paper and figure out exactly what you want from your life – this doesn’t mean you have to have your whole life figured out! Who knows where we are going to be in 5, 10, 20 years time – we don’t know where life will take us or what we will want then, but we can figure out what we love now and have a few ideas of things we might want then. For me, I would gather pictures of travelling, of books (because I want to study English literature) of art, of films and writers, of inspiring quotes, of the sky (because it makes me feel calm), of clothes I wish I could afford, of places I would dream of living in etc. We are all different and have different things that drive us to do the things we do – do you want to be wealthy, do you want to lead a creative life, do you want to lead a stress-free life, do you want to own your own business, do you want to make a change? There are so many questions to ask yourself about what YOU want from life. And the answers to these questions will help you figure out your ‘why’ and this should help motivate you to keep going through your studies.
5. Test yourself frequently.
This may sound obvious but often this is the step we forget, we end up bogged down by all our revision notes that we don’t really know what we know and we don’t. What I did was revise a topic, make notes on a mind map, watch a ‘Snaprevise video’ then sit with a blank piece of paper and my spec and write out all that I can remember. Where there are areas I know I have forgotten i’d put a line or write in a different colour ‘something about….’ then go back to it at the end saying the pieces of information over and over in my head and rewriting it out. Its also a good idea to do past paper questions so that you can think like the examiner and feel more prepared, Snap revise is really good for this too because after going over a topic they will guide you through some potential past paper questions showing how they got to their answer and how to approach different kinds of questions. (I only used Snaprevise for Biology though, so I wouldn’t be able to say how useful it is for any other subject – I chose not to use it for English Lit because English is more of an ‘opinion forming’ subject, as in there is no definitive answer.
A few Subject Specific tips…
I studied English Literature, Biology and Art at A level, three very different subjects I know, and each required very different revision methods.
For English I found it useful watching adaptations for the plays, the more the better particularly as for our exam board we got marked for our wider reading, and also summary videos (the best ones I found were by Crash Course literature on YouTube – they also gave you critical opinions which were really useful). My second tip would be to talk to some of your classmates, talking to other people about the books you are studying means you can share ideas and gain some you hadn’t though of or be able to argue their opinion – a line of argument you could potentially use in your exam. My third and final tip would be to do as many past paper questions as you can, even if you just do essay plans, just so you can get to grips with quickly forming ideas and a line of argument.
For Biology, Its all about ensuring you really understand and remember the content and that you are able to know exactly what the examiner wants from the questions in your answers. For me, my best friend was Snaprevise as they went through example questions and really quickly summarised all the topics linking them to all the other topics at the same time. I also went to a SnapRevise course in London at Imperial Collage earlier this year for some extra revision – they were really long days but I do feel that it was real helpful although it wasn’t exam board specific like the videos so occasionally I did find myself thinking ‘Do I need to know this? I don’t think I’ve heard of that before’ so I did have to clarify a few things with my teacher after.
Art is mostly coursework so the biggest piece of advice I have is to keep on top of it – i’m a fairly fast worker so for me it was mostly about keeping up a certain standard of quality in my work but so many others struggled with the sheer volume of work to do.
So that is my top 5 tips (with a few extra!), I hope they were helpful, if you have any specific questions then feel free to leave them in the comments below 🙂
And if you are doing exams or are expecting results this summer – Good Luck!!!